Remarks of Michelle Bachelet at luncheon meeting with leaders from business, science and civil society, New Delhi, India


Remarks of Michelle Bachelet at luncheon meeting with leaders from business, science and civil society. New Delhi, India. 3 October 2012.

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I have been looking forward to our meeting! I would like to thank the CEO of the CII for hosting this luncheon meeting and for providing this opportunity to interact closely with global business, civil society, media and scientific leaders in India.

I would like to congratulate the Confederation of India Industry as a key actor in India's rapidly growing economy. The world will continue to look to India to take the lead in achieving the goals of inclusive growth and sustainable development.

For these reasons and more, I would like to tell you about UN Women, what we do, and why we're interested in partnering with you. UN Women's supports Member States in their efforts to advance gender equality and women's empowerment. We are working in five priority areas: to advance women's political leadership; to prevent violence against women and girls; to increase women's leadership in peace, security and humanitarian response; to support planning and budgeting processes for equality; and of course, to enhance women's economic empowerment.

We now have piles of research to show that unleashing women's full economic potential by removing barriers and supporting equal opportunity increases growth and performance. So I congratulate the CEO of CII for prioritizing Affirmative Action and Skills Development as part of the Confederation's focus this and the coming year.

Having more women in company boards, in senior management, supervisory positions and workers in the formal sector is not only the right thing to do, but the smart thing to do. It's good for the bottom line. The Indian private sector is today a major global player, so its voice is voice for global change.

There is huge potential for India as a global leader in scientific and technological advances. But there is also the risk that society can become further divided between the haves and the have-nots. That is why providing practical education, along with vocational training and inclusive apprenticeship and HR policies can help ensure that everyone, women included, can enjoy the benefits of India's position as global leader in science.

It is through forums such as this, bringing together leaders from business, science, government and civil society that we can build the networks required to further develop social enterprise and entrepreneurship. UN Women will support these processes in any way that we can.

We know that increasing women's economic role is important for India and it's good for women and good for business. It is about engaging the productive capacity, creativity and talent of half the population and maximizing their role and rights as formal sector workers in agriculture , manufacturing and services sectors as well as increasing their purchasing power as consumers.

One of the most important partnerships the UN has with the private sector is the UN Global Compact Women's Empowerment Principles. These are a set of 7 principles offering practical guidance on concrete actions that business can take to empower women in the workplace, marketplace and community. Globally, more than 400 CEOs have publicly declared their commitment to these principles; around 258 companies worldwide have signed up to them. In India, 4 private sector companies have signed up and this is not enough. I would like to urge you as CII members to sign up to these Principles.

As a major economic force worldwide, India and Indian companies have the opportunity to set the standards in Asia in terms of women's right to decent work. This is so important because women in rural areas are affected by macroeconomic policies, ‘jobless growth' and are subject to informalisation and invisibilisation. In India, 79 per cent of rural women work in agriculture. Yet more than 90 per cent of them are in the informal sector, with little organisation, almost no social protection, and negligible land ownership (only 9 per cent).

And this situation is dragging down not only women, it is dragging down India and its current and potential growth and trajectory as a world leader. On the other hand, stoking the capabilities of women and advancing their empowerment, as Amartya Sen said, is the key to rapid economic growth, social cohesion and environmental sustainability. He called it a no brainer.

India's development progress hinges on its progress for gender equality and women's empowerment. And all of us at UN Women look forward to working with you.